There is a university in Mexico city in which cats are respected, cared for and treated with respect. It is called Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana and it is located in the former San Jerónimo convent, which in the 17th century was the home of one of the most important poets of the country: Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz.
It is believed that in the times of the convent, the nuns were allowed to have some companion animals, which mostly were cats. In the 19th century the convent was closed and the building underwent many changes until 1976, the year in which a deep restoration took place. Many cats’ skeletons were found during the excavations, proving that cats continued to live in the building, no matter its use. It was very common to keep cats to prevent plagues. ”They probably died and were simply buried there”, says Daniela Acosta from editorial services.
In 1979 the university officially opened and the tradition of the cats simply remained. The place was believed to be some kind of shelter; people dropped cats in boxes or threw them through the windows, others arrived on their own. But there were always cats.
The population grew so much that more than 10 years ago it went out of control and there were more than 100 cats living there. This became a problem so the university had to take important measures. They created a neuter and spay program, promoted adoptions and educated the public regarding the cats.
According to Rosa Maria S. from Administration, they were spaying and neutering 20 or 30 cats per day; catching as many as they could and getting it done inside the classrooms (by experts of course). That way the population was slowly controlled. Regarding adoptions, they did background research to make sure the cats would end up in a proper home and they followed up with them, asking for updated pictures of the adopted cats.
Of course there were always some students rescuing abandoned cats and taking them to the campus. In that case, they were asked to be responsible for the spaying or neutering and the vaccination of the cats before finding them a home.
Today, there are around 20 cats living there. The university pays for the food and through donations they pay for their medical bills. They are all spayed or neutered, vaccinated and all of them have names; each cat actually has more than one name – the official one plus the ones the students give them.
I had the opportunity to visit this university recently and I can tell you these cats don’t mind being around humans. Most of them are extremely affectionate and they even come to you when you call them.
There is even a yard called “Patio de los Gatos” (The Cats’ Yard) which happens to be one of their favorite spots because of the amount of sun shine there. And in every area of the university, there are food dispensers, water bowls, beds, scratch posts and toys for the cats. Just check out these exclusive pictures we took for you.
Many of the students bring them food and care for them and some of the professors allow them inside the classrooms, so it’s not surprising to be having a class with a cat on one of the chairs.
Of course, if there are allergic students they can ask the professor to stop the cats from entering the classroom or to remove them; but there is no mistreatment allowed.
This is a university that considers itself to be humanistic, so it’s great that in addition to the formal education they provide, they also humanize and raise awareness towards the care for an animal that has lived in the building for more than four centuries.